IOC Bans Russia from Olympic Games

The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from taking part in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Russian officials are not allowed to take part in the opening ceremony and the Russian flag will not be raised.

Russian athletes, however, will be able to take part as individuals under a neutral flag if the IOC has determined that they have been clean athletes in the past.

The decision comes after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed that Russia was guilty of systematic doping during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. In a case of state-sponsored doping, officials tampered with urine samples to hide athletes’ drug abuse.  More than 20 Russian athletes, among them some medal winners,  have been disqualified from the final Sochi results.

The whole investigation into the doping claim started when Grigory Rodchenko, director of Russia’s   anti-doping lab in Sochi 2014, defected to the United States. He stated that the country ran an official doping programme and switched samples during the Games.  Doping was especially widespread in sports like biathlon and cross-country skiing.  A report by the World’s anti-doping organization (WADA) stated that between 2012 and 2015 a thousand Russian athletes in 30 sports benefited from the programme.

Although many countries welcomed the IOC’s decision, it was sharply criticized in Russia. Some officials urged the country not to allow any of its athletes to take part in Pyeongchang Olympics. Russia would have ranked first in the Sochi medal table, but lost 13 medals because of the scandal, 4 of them in gold.

Vladimir Putin congratulates Alexandr Zubkov at a ceremony for Russian athletes during the Sochi Olympic
Vladimir Putin congratulates Alexandr Zubkov at a ceremony for Russian athletes during the Sochi Olympics. Zubkov is one of several Russian athletes who lost his medals because of doping. Image: www.kremlin.ru

Words

  • although = while
  • athlete = someone who takes part in a sports competition
  • ban = an order that does not allow a country to take part
  • benefit = something that helps you get better
  • biathlon = event in which athletes ski across fields and then shoot a rifle
  • claim = to say that something is true even if you have not proved it
  • clean athlete = an athlete who has not taken any illegal drugs
  • confirm = to say that something is true by giving proof
  • cross-country skiing = a race in which you ski-across fields
  • decision = order
  • defect = to leave your home country to go somewhere else, mostly because you have something to be afraid of
  • determine = find out the facts
  • disqualify = to take athletes out of the official results
  • doping = the practice of using drugs to improve performance in sport
  • drug abuse = here: taking drugs illegally
  • especially = above all
  • guilty = to do something that is not allowed
  • however = but
  • individual = here: a single person, not part of a country’s team
  • investigation = here: when organizations try to find out the truth about something
  • medal table = list that shows the number of medals that each country has won
  • official = person in a high position in an organisation
  • opening ceremony = the first event at the start of the Olympic Games
  • raise = put up
  • rank = the position in a table
  • sharply = very strongly
  • state-sponsored = the government knew about doping
  • switch = replace, exchange
  • tamper = to change something without permission
  • urge = to strongly suggest that you do something
  • urine samples = yellow liquid waste that comes out of your body; by examining urine experts can see if there are any illegal substances that  an athlete has taken
  • welcome = to be in favour of the decision
  • widespread = common

Europe’s Muslim Population Will Continue to Grow

Over the next few decades, Europe’s Muslim population is expected to continue growing.  A study estimates that by 2050 the Muslim population could grow to 58 million, or 11 % of the total European population, compared to 5 % today.

The study conducted by Pew research, is based on census and immigration data from  30 countries. It created three scenarios. In the first scenario, Muslim immigration into Europe would come to a complete halt.  Even then, the Muslim population would rise to 7.4 %. This is because Muslims, on average,  are 13 years younger than Europeans and have a higher birth rate.

On the other side, a high migration scenario is based on the flow of refugees from 2015- 2016 and expects it to continue. If this happens, the total Muslim population in Europe will rise to 75 million, about 14% of the total population.

According to the Pew report, not all countries will be affected evenly by future Muslim immigration.  Germany and Sweden will see the biggest increases because these two countries accepted most asylum seekers during the 2015-2016 refugee crisis.

At the moment, Germany (5 million) and France (5.7 Million)  have the largest Muslim populations in Europe.

The recently published study is likely to cause more debate on immigration into Europe.  It cites instability in the Middle East and Northern Africa as well as the ongoing conflict in Syria as the main factors that drive people to European countries.  In the last 6 years seeking asylum in conflict regions was the most important motive for Muslims coming to Europe. Only few came to Europe for employment or education.

 

Migrants near the Hungarian-Serbian border during the 2015 refugee crisi
Migrants near the Hungarian-Serbian border during the 2015 refugee crisis – Image: Gémes Sándor/SzomSzed

Words

  • according to = as reported by …
  • affect = here: changed by the situation
  • asylum seeker = person who leaves their country because they are in danger, mostly for political reasons, and asks another country to let them live there
  • birthrate = the number of births for every 1,000 people in a year
  • census = official counting of a country’s population
  • cite = mention
  • compared = to look at two things in a similar way
  • conduct = carry out
  • data = information
  • debate = discussion
  • decade = ten years
  • employment = job, work
  • factor = reason
  • flow = steady movement of people
  • estimate = to calculate how big something will be  based on the information that you have
  • halt = stop
  • immigration = when you go to another country and plan to live there permanently
  • increase = to go up
  • instability = when the situation in a country is not stable because of war or other conflicts
  • is based on = use something as the starting point for your research
  • is expected to = will probably
  • motive = reason
  • ongoing conflict = here: conflict or war that is continuing
  • refugee = people who have to leave their home because of war or a natural disaster
  • rise = go up
  • scenario = situation that could possibly happen
  • study = piece of work that is done to find out more about a subject

Era of Robert Mugabe Comes to an End in Zimbabwe

After being president for 37 years, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe has finally stepped down. At 93, he was the world’s oldest leader. Mugabe headed the country since its independence from Britain in 1980. In his letter of resignation, Mugabe said he would allow the peaceful transition of power to his successor.

Moments after the announcement, people started celebrating in the country’s capital Harare and elsewhere in the country.  While some see him as a great African hero and statesmen, a majority of the population regard Mugabe as a dictator who has economically brought down the southern African nation. He is criticised for using his power to crush opposition leaders and crack down on his political opponents.

After holding on to power for decades, Mugabe made his biggest mistake by trying to make his wife, Grace, instead of his Vice President his successor. In the days and weeks before finally stepping down, the military took control of the country and put Mugabe under house arrest.

When it became clear that the end was closing in, his own party, Zanu PF, removed him as party leader and started an impeachment process. After Mugabe’s resignation, opposition leaders are calling for quick and fair elections.

After Britain’s colony Southern Rhodesia became Zimbabwe in 1980, Robert Mugabe was the first, and only, black president. In sweeping economic changes, he nationalized white-owned private farms. Instead of being given to poor black people, Mugabe gave them to generals and his loyal followers. As a result, food production went down and the country’s people started suffering from hunger.

After independence, about 3 million people left the country for neighbouring South Africa. Those who stayed were left without work.  Today unemployment is estimated at 80%. Tourism has slowed down and industrial output has decreased. Zimbabwe’s diamond mines, the largest source of income, are now run by the army.

 

Zimbabwe's long time leader Robert Mugabe resigns
Zimbabwe’s long time leader Robert Mugabe resigns – Image : www.kremlin.ru

Words

  • announcement = official statement that can be heard by everyone
  • celebrate = to have fun and be happy
  • crack down on = here: to be strict with someone and punish them
  • crush = here: to stop someone from getting too powerful
  • decade =  ten years
  • decrease = to go down
  • economically =  about money, trade and business in a country
  • election = when people vote  to chose someone for an official position
  • estimated = thought to be …
  • head = to be the leader
  • house arrest = to be kept a prisoner by the government; you have to stay inside your house  rather than in prison
  • impeachment = when an important member of the government, often the president, has committed a serious crime and a special court decides if he can keep his job
  • independence = being free from the control of another country
  • industrial output = what factories can produce in a given time
  • loyal followers = people who admire and support him a lot
  • majority = most of the people
  • nationalize = when the government takes control of a private company
  • opponent = rival
  • opposition leaders = the people who were against him
  • peaceful = not violent
  • population = the people who live in a country
  • regard = think of someone as ….
  • remove = replace
  • resignation = to announce that you have decided to give up your job
  • source of income = where you get your money from
  • statesman =political leader who is respected  as being wise and fair
  • step down = to give up power and control of a country
  • sweeping = things that make a big difference
  • transition of power = when you give up power and another person takes over
  • unemployment = people who are out of work and don’t have a job

Russian Revolution – One Hundred Years Ago

One hundred years ago, in 1917, the Russian Revolution ended the monarchyTsar Nicholas II had to step down and the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin took control of the country. As a result, the Soviet Union evolved and became the biggest Communist country in the 20th century.

The centennial celebrations did not stir up a lot of publicity and Russian media did not report extensively on the topic. The Russian government under Vladimir Putin all but ignored the anniversary.

In contrast, thousands of Communist party members marched through downtown Moscow in honour of the Bolshevists, holding up flags of Lenin and Stalin.

During the Soviet era, November 7th  was always a state holiday with military parades and a display of power on Red Square. It was stopped after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Public opinion on the Russian Revolution is divided . While most citizens have a positive view of Lenin’s role in history they are opposed to the events that took place under Joseph Stalin’s  authoritarian regime. On the other side, many Russians are proud of having won World War II and of the country’s military and scientific achievements.

Lenin’s legacy collapsed in 1991. After years of chaos and a massive gap between the rich and poor, stability returned in the new millennium. While many cities and towns still honour Lenin in some way, others, like St. Petersburg, have returned to pre-revolutionary names.

Poster showing a Bolshevik in 1920
Poster showing a Bolshevik in 1920

Words

  • achievement = something important or successful that you have done  and can be proud of
  • anniversary = a day on which something special happened years ago
  • authoritarian regime = government that forces people to do what it wants and  where the citizens cannot state their opinions
  • Bolsheviks = group of people who supported the communist party at the time of the Russian Revolution in 1917
  • centennial = day or year exactly 100 years after a special event
  • century = a hundred years
  • citizen = a person who lives in a country and has rights there
  • collapse = break down; when something stops existing
  • divided = split
  • downtown = the centre of a city
  • evolve = grow
  • extensively = in detail, very much
  • gap = big difference
  • ignore = pay no attention to something
  • in honour = to show how much you admire or respect someone
  • legacy = here: what is left over from a certain period in history
  • massive = very large
  • millennium = the beginning of the next one thousand years
  • monarchy = country in which a king, queen or another person rules
  • oppose = to be against something
  • parade = here: public celebration where soldiers and weapons move down the streets for the people to see
  • pre-revolutionary = before the revolution
  • publicity = attention that something gets  from newspapers or TV
  • public opinion = what the people on the streets think
  • Red Square = large open area in the centre of Moscow
  • scientific = about science
  • stability = being in the same condition
  • step down = give up power
  • stir up = cause, lead to
  • tsar = king of the Russian empire before 1917

 

 

Paradise Papers – How To Hide Your Money

The Paradise Papers are documents which show how rich people – celebrities, politicians and businessmen use offshore countries to protect themselves from paying high taxes. The documents were leaked to the German Süddeutsche Zeitung and examined by 400 journalists from all over the world.

There are more than 13 million documents that contain 1,400 GB of information. They reveal financial transactions of hundreds of individuals, as well as famous corporations like Apple and Nike.

Among those accused of investing money in offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes are close advisors of US President Donald Trump and German ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.  The documents also reveal that some of Queen Elisabeth’s private money was invested in offshore accounts. Russian oligarchs with ties to the Kremlin and an aide to Canada’s Prime Minister are also named in the report.

The majority of the Paradise Papers comes from Appleby, a law firm that helps companies and rich people reduce their tax burden through offshore accounts. The firm with headquarters in Bermuda has thousands of clients and offices around the world. The other documents come from various businesses in the Carribean.

 

Two years ago the Panama Papers revealed similar documents. It showed how hundreds of people set up businesses in tax havens in order to hide their money and pay fewer taxes.

Bermuda - Headquarters of the Appleby law firm
Bermuda – Headquarters of the Appleby law firm – Image: Eric Gaba

Words

  • accuse = to believe that someone has done something wrong or illegal
  • advisor = a person who helps you  and gives you information because they know a lot about a certain subject
  • aide = someone who helps a politician
  • avoid = to prevent something from happening
  • business = company
  • celebrity = famous person
  • chancellor = here: leader of the German government
  • corporation = large company
  • examine = to look at very closely
  • financial transaction = here: money moves from one place to another
  • headquarters = the main building or offices used by a large company
  • individual = single person
  • leak = to give secret information to a newspaper, TV station or journalists
  • majority =  most
  • politician = person who works in politics, either for a government or a political party
  • offshore = here: country in which you pay less tax than elsewhere
  • offshore account = bank account in a country where you pay fewer taxes than in your home country
  • oligarch = boss of a group of people who run  a country or organisation
  • reduce = lower
  • reveal = show something that hasn’t been known before
  • similar = almost the same
  • tax = the money you must pay to the government based on your income
  • tax burden = here: the amount of taxes you pay
  • tax haven = country where people go to live in order to avoid paying high taxes in their own country
  • tie = close relationship to
  • various = different, several

 

 

 

US Government Releases Most JFK Files

The American government has released over 3000 documents relating to the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas in 1963.  President Trump, however, has ordered some of the documents with sensitive information to be held back for 6 months after a request from the CIA and FBI. In 1992 President George Bush signed a law that required all documents about the JFK murder to be released within 25 years.

The published documents have not provided any sensational new information on the JFK assassination. The public had  hoped that the released documents would bring more light into the former president’s murder. Experts say that the decision to withhold some of the documents suggests that the government wants to keep some things secret .

Many of the documents are incomplete and some are only memos. The files show how disorganised government agencies were during the 1960s and how they dealt with the assassination.

In a series of memos, the FBI reports on Lee Harvey Oswald’s visit to Mexico City, where he met with a Soviet agent shortly before the Kennedy was killed. The material shows that authorities were trying to find out if a foreign government – Cuba or possibly the Soviet Union – was behind Kennedy’s death.

There is still no evidence that there was a conspiracy to kill the president. Nothing suggests that Lee Harvey Oswald worked with a partner.  There are, however, FBI documents that warned the Dallas police about a threat against Oswald. Kennedy’s killer was shot dead at the Dallas Police Department two days after the Kennedy assassination.

Among the documents are reports that are only indirectly related to the Kennedy killing, for example CIA plans to murder Cuba’s Fidel Castro .

John F. Kennedy in the motorcade shortly before the assassination
John F. Kennedy in the motorcade shortly before the assassination

Words

  • agency = organisation or department in the government
  • agent = person who works for another government
  • assassination = the murder of an important person
  • authorities = organisation or department in the government
  • conspiracy = a secret plan made by two or more people to do something that is against the law
  • deal with = handle
  • decision = to do something after you have thought about it
  • disorganised = without a plan or system
  • evidence = proof that something happened
  • files = documents
  • foreign = from another country
  • former = earlier, in the past
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • incomplete = not having everything that should be there
  • provide = to give; make available
  • public = ordinary people in a country
  • publish = to make public
  • relating to = about
  • release = to make public for everyone to see
  • request = a formal demand for something
  • require = here: the law says you have to do something
  • secret = not for everybody to know
  • sensitive = something that you have to deal with carefully
  • series =  a few
  • sign = to put your name on a document
  • Soviet Union = largest Communist country that existed between 1917 and 1991
  • threat = when someone says that they want to harm or trouble you
  • withhold = to hold back; not release

Che Guevara Died 50 Years Ago

Che Guevara was a Marxist revolutionary who was a close aide of Fidel Castro during the Cuban Revolution. He was killed in Bolivia 50 years ago.

Che was born into a middle class Argentinian family   in 1928  and studied medicine in his youth. From the beginning he was influenced by left-wing ideas and strongly opposed the government of Argentine leader Juan Peron.

Instead of finishing his studies, the young rebel decided to travel around South America, where he witnessed widespread poverty  and oppression among the population. In the 1950s he travelled to Guatemala where he saw how the CIA helped overthrow a leftist government.

In Mexico, Che Guevara met Fidel Castro and his brother Raul.  Together , they planned to overthrow the pro-western government in Cuba. After Castro took power in 1959 , Che Guevara held some top posts in his government and also became Castro’s military adviser.  He strongly opposed the United States and its policies. Instead he tried to strengthen ties with the Soviet Union and spread socialism to Central America.

The Marxist revolutionary was sent to developing countries  in order to show  them how Cuban socialism worked. In Congo, he trained rebels to fight against government soldiers. Che Guevara was finally captured in Bolivia where he was  he was executed in 1967.

 

Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara
Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara

Words

  • adviser = person who gives you advice because they know a lot about a topic
  • aide = person who helps a politician or leader
  • capture = to catch a person and keep them as a prisoner
  • developing country = poor country in Africa, Asia or America
  • execute = to kill someone as a from of being punished
  • influence = to affect or change the way someone behaves or thinks
  • instead = in something’s place
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • Marxist = person who supports the ideas of Karl Marx.  He explained changes in history as a result of the struggle between social classes
  • oppose = to be against
  • oppression = when you treat a group of people in an unfair way and do not give them the same rights that others have
  • overthrow = remove a leader or a government
  • policy = the way a government plans to handle a topic or problem
  • poverty= the situation of being poor
  • revolutionary = person who joins or supports a revolution
  • socialism = system in which many industries are owned by the state  and rich people pay more taxes than poorer ones
  • strengthen = make stronger
  • take power = here: become a leader or the head of a government
  • ties = relationship with another country
  • widespread = all over the place
  • witness = to see something because you are there

Rohingya People Flee from Myanmar

More than half a million Rohingya have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh in the past year. For ages, the people have been oppressed and discriminated against by the Myanmar government, which does not officially recognise them as a minority.

The Rohingya are a group of people without their own state. Living in western Myanmar, they have been denied citizenship, even though they have been there for ages.

The United Nations estimates that there were originally over 1 million Rohingya. Most of them are Muslim, a minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar.  They are among the most persecuted people in the world.

Since 2016, army forces have been carrying out attacks against the Rohingya. There have been reports that whole villages in western Myanmar  have been burned down as well as accusations of mass killings. Refugees arriving in Bangladesh also tell stories of  women being raped by soldiers.

Myanmar’s government says it is responding to attacks by rebel Rohingya groups. Officials say that the Rohingya are not being persecuted and  treated like other ethnic groups in the country.

The United Nations , Amnesty International and other human rights groups have called for a stop to what they call the ethnic cleansing of western Myanmar.

Rohingya Refugee Camp in Bangladesh
Rohingya Refugee Camp in Bangladesh –
Image: Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Words

  • accusation = to say that someone has committed a crime or has done  something wrong
  • citizenship = the right to belong to a certain country
  • deny = here: not give
  • discriminate against = to treat someone differently or in an unfair way
  • estimate = here: to guess how many there really are
  • ethnic cleansing = to make people leave a country because of their race , religion or culture
  • ethnic group = group of people who belong to a certain race , or who have their own culture, tradition and language
  • flee – fled = to leave a place very quickly in order to escape from a dangerous situation
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • minority = small group of people who live in a country
  • oppress = to treat a group of people in an unfair way and not give them the rights that other people have
  • persecute = to treat someone badly or unfairly over a period of time, because of their religion, or social status
  • predominantly = mostly
  • rape = to force someone to have sex
  • recognise = to officially accept
  • refugee = someone who has to leave their country because of a war or other dangerous situations
  • respond = react

 

 

90% Vote For Independence in Catalonia

Over 2 million people voted in Sunday’s referendum on whether Catalonia should become an independent state. The government of the province has claimed that over 90% were in favour of breaking away from Spain. Before the referendum took place , Spain’s Supreme Court ruled that the vote  was unconstitutional.

The Spanish government in Madrid sent thousand s of policemen and other security officers to Catalonia to stop people from voting. Police in Barcelona and other towns fired rubber bullets at protesters and tried to stop people from going to schools and other public buildings used as voting stationsHundreds of people were injured, many of them seriously.

About 7 million people live in Spain’s northeastern province. Catalonia has its own language and  culture. In the past decades it has received more and more autonomy. However, Catalonian separatists still want independence and their own country.  They say that the region is a rich part of Spain and keeps pouring money into poorer parts of the country. Catalonia is highly industrialised and represents about a fifth of Spain’s GDP.

The European Union fears that Catalonia may declare independence on its own and trigger a political crisis on the Iberian peninsula. This may lead to the rise of other nationalist movements, for example in Scotland or Belgium.

People protesting for an independent Catalonia
People protesting for an independent Catalonia – Image : Manifestació Som Una Nació, Nosaltres Decidim! 13

Words

  • autonomy = the right to have your own parliament and make some decisions on your own
  • claim = to say that something is true
  • decade = ten years
  • declare = to say officially
  • GDP = gross domestic product = the total value of all the goods and services that a country produces in one year
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • Iberian peninsula = southwestern part of Europe, made up of Spain and Portugal
  • independent = free
  • in favour of = to be for something
  • injure = hurt
  • nationalist movement = group of people who want to the region to become an independent state
  • pour = here: give
  • receive = get
  • referendum = when people vote in order to decide on a certain subject
  • represent = here: to have a share of
  • rubber = a soft material, usually used to make tires or boots
  • security officers = people who are responsible for the safety of others
  • separatist = person who wants to break away from his home country and become independent
  • Supreme Court = the highest court in a country
  • trigger = start
  • unconstitutional =  not allowed by the set of rules that a country is governed by
  • voting station = place or building where people can vote

 

 

Largest Non-Atomic Bomb Dropped Over Afghanistan

The American military has dropped the most powerful non-atomic bomb ever over ISIS {tooltip} strongholds {end-texte} places that are strongly defended by an army or by soldiers {end-tooltip}in Afghanistan.  The bomb , which weighs over 10,000 kg , was {tooltip} aimed {end-texte} directed at {end-tooltip} at {tooltip} destroying {end-texte} to damage completely {end-tooltip}tunnel systems used by {tooltip} ISIS {end-texte} the Islamic State {end-tooltip}.

The bomb is directed by GPS  and is {tooltip} designed {end-texte} was made for  {end-tooltip}to damage large targets. {tooltip} According to{end-texte}  as said by  {end-tooltip} officials 36 Islamic fighters were killed during the {tooltip} strike {end-texte} attack  {end-tooltip} near the Pakistan {tooltip} border{end-texte} line between two countries  {end-tooltip}.

{tooltip} Eyewitnesses {end-texte} people who were there and saw the explosion  {end-tooltip}in a nearby village said that they heard an {tooltip} extremely {end-texte} very  {end-tooltip}loud explosion and saw a thick cloud of {tooltip} dust{end-texte} very small particles of dirt / powder  {end-tooltip}.

The so-called “mother of bombs” was developed in 2003, but up to now, has never been used in the {tooltip} battlefield {end-texte} in a real war between two groups  {end-tooltip}